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Oonaga eggplants can be 15 inches(40cm) to 23 inches(60cm). Oonaga eggplant is typically three times longer than regular Japanese eggplants. The shape is cylindrical with little difference in the thickness from the neck to the bottom. An Oonaga eggplant has dark purple skin that is firm and glossy. The seeds inside Oonaga eggplant are soft and hardly noticeable when eaten but have a bitter flavor because they contain nicotine like alkaloids similar to tobacco. The inside flesh is soft, dense and juicy.
Oonaga eggplants are at their very best from summer to early fall, however they are available from spring to early winter.
Oonaga eggplants are in the Solananceae family and genus Solanum, making them related to both tomatoes and potatoes. They are registered as Kumamoto prefecture's traditional vegetable. Oonaga means very long in Japanese. They are the longest eggplants in Japan. They grow longer in cool temperatures. Most Japanese people stir-fry or grill them because their inner flesh is soft and moist.
Oonaga eggplant is low in fat with approximately 20 calories per cup and packed with nutrients. The skin is full of fiber which helps regulate digestion. It also contains the antioxidant Nasunin, which gives the eggplant it's purple color. It has been found to help protect cell membranes in the brain. Oonaga eggplant also contains Vitamin C, Foliate, Potassium and Magnesium.
Fresh Oonaga eggplant has skin that is firm and shiny. Choosing heavier eggplant lowers the chance that the flesh will be spongy. Make sure to cook Oonaga eggplants before you eat them. Salting, rinsing and drying sliced eggplant is called "degorging". It helps remove some of the bitter flavor and reduces he amount of fat that is absorbed during cooking. Oonaga eggplant pairs well with garlic and green onions and is best braised, stewed, deep fried or stuffed.
There is an old Japanese expression that says do not let a daughter-in-law eat eggplants that were harvested in fall because they taste so good; another words, eggplants have an effect on cooling a women's body which means they are not good for her body to conceive a child.
Farmers have been growing Oonaga Eggplant in Kumamoto prefecture, Fukuoka prefecture and Nagasaki prefecture since 1970. Eggplants in general have been cultivated in southern and eastern Asian since prehistory.